Amid another pandemic surge in Michigan, federal officials granted a request from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to send staff to support beleaguered hospital workers.
The aid comes as Michigan remains a national pandemic hot spot: Approximately 1 in 5 hospitalized Michiganders has COVID-19, and the state continues to lead the nation in cases.
"In the last seven days, no other state or territory has reported a higher inpatient bed utilization than Michigan," reads a portion of a report issued this week by the state health department.
The federal plan involves sending two, 22-person military teams from the U.S. Department of Defense to hospitals in Dearborn and Grand Rapids. The teams include doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists. They are due to arrive Monday for a 30-day stint in the state.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also opened up beds at its Detroit hospital for local COVID-19 patients, granting a request for help from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Michigan also will receive an additional 800 monoclonal antibody therapies, a successful method for treating people already infected with the coronavirus.
“I’m grateful that the federal government has granted our request to provide much-needed relief to the health care personnel who have remained on the frontlines of this pandemic,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement.
“Right now, our doctors and nurses are reporting the vast majority of their patients are unvaccinated or have not yet received a booster dose. We can all do our part to help reduce the strain on our hospital systems by getting vaccinated, making an appointment to get a booster dose, and continuing to take precautions to keep ourselves and loved ones safe.”
The federal medical teams are going to Beaumont Health in Dearborn and Spectrum Health Butterworth hospital in Grand Rapids. The Dearborn hospital reported a 94% bed occupancy rate, while Butterworth reported a 92% rate.
Leaders from both institutions thanked the state and federal governments for help during this crisis.
“The virus has exhausted our teams and resulted in unprecedented staffing challenges at Beaumont Health and health systems across the state," said Beaumont Health CEO John Fox.
"This pandemic is not over by any means. We ask everyone to please get vaccinated. And, if you’re eligible, get a booster shot."
Hospital leaders pleaded for this assistance earlier in the week.
"Across the state, resilient and dedicated healthcare workers in hospitals stand ready to care for emergency medical needs, but the reality is most hospitals throughout the state have more patients in their emergency departments than they do available rooms and staff to care for them," read part of a statement issued by the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.
"This results in long wait times, patients being placed in hallways or conference rooms, and diverting patients away from a hospital because there is no physical room or medical staff available to accept more patients."
Whitmer and her administration have repeatedly called on Michiganders to get vaccinated, wear masks and follow other mitigation measures. But they have eschewed mandates for months, despite previously arguing for their efficacy.
Now, Whitmer and Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel say most Michiganders have the ability to get a vaccine and a vaccine booster, when eligible, and to wear masks. It falls on them to do so.
“Hospitals are at capacity across the state, particularly in Metro Detroit and West Michigan, and this is taking a tremendous toll on our health care workers,” Hertel said in a statement.
“We are working hard to give them support, but they also need every Michigander to do their part by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status, social distancing and staying home and getting tested if they have symptoms.”
Boosters are crucial for people who are more than six months out from their last vaccine dose, according to state and federal health experts. The necessity for boosters is demonstrated in the relatively small but increasing number of breakthrough cases in Michigan. State data shows between Oct. 14 and Nov. 12, 28% of cases, 29% of hospitalizations and 25% of deaths were among people who were fully vaccinated.
About 55% of eligible Michigan residents are fully vaccinated, according to the state health department. Although Michiganders 5 through 11 years old recently became eligible for the vaccine, less than 13% have gotten their first dose.
Michigan reported nearly 1,000 ongoing outbreaks this week, including 140 new outbreaks tied to schools.
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